Since A Nation at Risk was published in 1983, school reforms have emphasized increasing the number of academic courses students take in high school. More recent reforms have emphasized increasing the rigor, as well as the number, of courses taken. Research suggests a positive relationship between the level of difficulty of courses students take and their performance on assessments.109, 110
NOTE: Data for 1982 and 1992 are from a series of longitudinal studies, whereas data for 1987, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2000, and 2005 are from the National Assessment of Educational Progress High School Transcript Studies. Due to differences in survey methodology among the data collections, users should use caution when comparing data across the years. Advanced coursework includes the following: mathematics: courses above Algebra II; science: chemistry, physics, or advanced biology; English: some courses at the honors level; and foreign language: a year 3, year 4, or advanced placement course.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, High School Transcript Studies: High School and Beyond Study, National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988, and National Assessment of Educational Progress Transcript Study.
109 Dalton, B., Ingels, S.J., Downing, J., and Bozick, R. (2007). Advanced mathematics and science coursetaking in the spring high school senior classes of 1982, 1992, and 2004. National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC.
110 Leow, C., Marcus, S., Zanutto, E., and Boruch, R. (2004). Effects of advanced course-taking on math and science achievement: Addressing selection bias using propensity scores. American Journal of Evaluation, 25, 461–478.
111 Shettle, C., Roey, S., Mordica, J., Perkins, R., Nord, C., Teodorovic, J., Brown, J., Lyons, M., Averett, C., and Kastberg, D. (2007). The Nation's Report Card: America's high school graduates (NCES 2007-467). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.